Friday, January 11, 2002

Identity thief gets 7 years

Butler Co. woman also must pay fine

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Rachel Holmes Agee came from Texas to tell a judge why he should put a 34-year-old Butler County woman behind bars for a long time.

        “Jennifer Hurley tried to ruin my life,” declared Mrs. Agee, 32, a Houston woman who says she feared losing her certified public accountant's license because of Ms. Hurley's actions.

        Ms. Hurley took out loans, got credit cards, opened bank accounts, landed jobs and bought cars — all under the names of her victims. The case is one of Greater Cincinnati's more sophisticated examples of identity theft — the nation's fastest-growing crime, authorities say.

        Ms. Hurley made claims against Mrs. Agee's mortgage and her car — and even twice telephoned Mrs. Agee's home to pump her for more information. “I feel violated in the most personal way,” Mrs. Agee said.

        After hearing victim-impact statements, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth on Thursday sentenced Ms. Hurley to seven years and three months in prison, fined her $22,000, and ordered that she pay $50,000 restitution.

        “Quite frankly, ma'am, I'm amazed what sophisticated methodology you were able to use,” Judge Spaeth told Ms. Hurley.

        Ms. Hurley used a computer — purchased under the name of Christian Hughes of Monroe — to generate bogus checks. Ms. Hurley also assumed the identity of Tiana Jennings of Ridgeland, Miss.

        All three women reported their IDs were lost or stolen — and police later found them in Ms. Hurley's Milford Township home.

        Ms. Hurley, who faced a maximum of 18 years on nine charges, kept her back turned to Mrs. Agee and other victims' representatives as they spoke. But after sentencing she turned to them and said: “I do apologize for everything I've done to all of you.”

        Defense lawyer Brad Bolinger said his client's boyfriend pressured her to commit wrongdoing and “she was afraid to try to get out of the situation.”

        Ms. Hurley's boyfriend, Timothy S. Huff, 38, is being held in the Butler County Jail awaiting sentencing Jan. 29 on six charges. He pleaded guilty last month to two counts of forgery, receiving stolen property, identity theft, attempted grand theft and resisting arrest.

        Authorities say Mr. Huff and Ms. Hurley were using assumed identities to avoid prosecution on Florida insurance-fraud charges.

        Asked to comment on the sentencing, Assistant Prosecutor Lee Oldendick said, “I don't know what time is adequate when you steal someone else's life.”


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